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Dry eyes

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger HendersonReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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Symptoms of dry eyes may include:

  1. Dryness: A sensation of dryness or grittiness in the eyes is a hallmark symptom of dry eyes. This can be accompanied by a feeling of irritation or discomfort.

  2. Redness: The eyes may appear red or bloodshot, particularly when they become irritated due to dryness.

  3. Burning or stinging: Some individuals with dry eyes may experience a burning or stinging sensation in the eyes, especially in environments with low humidity or when exposed to irritants such as smoke or wind.

  4. Blurry vision: Dry eyes can cause temporary fluctuations in vision, leading to blurry or fluctuating vision, particularly during activities that require prolonged visual concentration, such as reading or using a computer.

  5. Sensitivity to light: Dry eyes may increase sensitivity to light, making it uncomfortable to be in brightly lit environments.

  6. Watery eyes: Paradoxically, some people with dry eyes may experience excessive tearing as the eyes attempt to compensate for the lack of adequate lubrication.

Several factors can contribute to the development of dry eyes, including:

  • Ageing: Dry eyes are more common as people age, as tear production tends to decrease with age.
  • Environmental factors: Exposure to dry or windy climates, air conditioning, heating, and smoke can exacerbate dry eye symptoms.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases (e.g., Sjögren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis), hormonal changes (e.g., menopause), and eyelid abnormalities, can increase the risk of dry eyes.
  • Medications: Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and hormonal therapies, can reduce tear production or affect tear composition, leading to dry eyes.
  • Prolonged screen time: Extended use of digital devices can contribute to dry eyes due to reduced blinking and increased tear evaporation.
  • Contact lens wear: Contact lens use can exacerbate dry eye symptoms, particularly if lenses are worn for extended periods or if proper hygiene practices are not followed.

Doctor’s advice

How can I improve symptoms?

For dry eyes caused by tiredness, it's best to rest your eyes. There are also many dry eye treatments available at the pharmacy, such as eye lubricant drops or eye gels.

If you work with computers for long periods, are reading, or watch television, remember to take regular breaks every 15 to 20 minutes.

When concentrating in such cases, we tend to keep our eyes open that little bit longer, and have a reduced frequency of blinking, which can contribute to dry eyes, as blinking helps to disperse tears over the eye surface to provide lubrication.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

Treatment choice for dry eyes depends on your particular symptoms. Treatments differ in the thickness or viscosity of the drops, whether the product contains preservatives that can interact with certain types of contact lenses, and the shelf life after opening.

Eyes that feel gritty or tired can be due to dust or debris exposure, or because there are reduced tears lubricating the eyes. You can treat this with saline eye baths from the pharmacy, or products such as Optrex Multi Action Eyewash, which contains distilled witch hazel to cleanse the eyes and soothe irritation. For lubrication, hypromellose eye drops or lubricating eye ointments or gels such as Lacri-lube or Viscotears are readily available at the pharmacy.

If you have a dry eye sensation, this can be accompanied by watering eyes. The tear ducts respond to the dry eyes and start overproducing tears. Using an eye drop to lubricate the eye in this situation, will often run straight out of the eye, and not stay long enough to be fully effective. In such cases, using a product with a thicker consistency will be better, or preferably a gel or ointment, that will stay in to lubricate the eye for longer.

This should help to reduce the dry eye sensation, which in turn will calm down the overproduction or runny tears.

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have dry eyes.

When should I see my doctor?

If your symptoms do not improve after two weeks, see your pharmacist, doctor or optometrist.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 13.10.2023
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